Learning today for tomorrow’s world

April 2016


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ELAINE SHUCK asks whether educators are delivering the critical skills students will need to thrive in the workplace of the future.

tomorrows worldWhen family members ask what I do for a job, I tell them I spend a big part of my day thinking about the future. Specifically, what new skills teachers will need to learn in order to create a 21st-century learning environment; an environment that will ensure students have the skills they will need to succeed in their future workplaces.

The widespread availability and rapid advances in digital technology are causing changes i the workplace not seen since the industrial revolution. A recent study by Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand suggests that 46 per cent of New Zealand jobs are at risk of automation in the next 20 years. Students set to enter the workforce in five, 10, or even 15 years from now are expected to have several different careers ahead of them, compared with the previous ‘job for life’ generations.

The Future of Work Commission, established by the New Zealand Labour Party, has launched a two-year programme to understand the changing nature of work and its impact on the economy. Education and technology have been identified as two of the key areas being assessed as part of this review.

With jobs and even entire industries set to disappear, it’s clear that a more adaptable workforce will be needed. More responsive and personalised education pathways may be needed to meet the demands of a workforce that needs to be resilient and more adaptable. As we know, schools and colleges are under increasing pressure to deliver technology-enhanced learning.

So, what’s needed to upskill our teachers to ensure they have the tools and knowledge required to thrive within this new learning paradigm?

At Polycom, where we can really add value is to ensure the technologies and tools we are creating today will support the rapid pace of change taking place inside the classroom. To help us understand what Australia and New Zealand (ANZ) educators will need to succeed in the classroom of the future, we undertook a 2025 Education Technology Innovation Survey. Over 700 ANZ educators responded with a diverse range of job roles – the majority being teachers and principals – and 90 per cent were over the age of 30.

Outlined below are more insights into the key findings:

1. Education accessibility: more investment needed

A big concern was the accessibility of education, especially in remote areas, with 40 per cent of educators believing parents and students alike are demanding more mobile and remote access to services. While respondents are confident of technology progressing to the point where online and interactive learning is possible, there is an expectation of more investment in education to ensure it is easily accessible to those who want or require it.

Currently, 58 per cent feel that the respective governments are not keeping up with education innovation. Respondents also believed that future education models will likely come from educators themselves rather than the government or private sectors. A majority also believe the education sector will be investing in Virtual Learning Environments (VLE).

2. Curriculum catch-up required: improving quality of teachers versus personalised and contextual learning

Right now, one of the largest inhibitor for the future of education is seen as the curriculum not keeping pace with future workforce needs. However, when it comes to potential solutions, there were differences of opinion among the ANZ educators.

With deregulation and revised compliance standards, 27 per cent of those surveyed think that improving the quality of teacher-learning should be the
primary focus, while 23 per cent felt that the priority should be on personalised and contextual learning, opting for a more student-centric approach.

3. Technology in the classroom: laptop versus real-time collaboration from anywhere

The majority (51 per cent) feel that the potential of technology to support meaningful learning in the classroom is currently underutilised. Currently laptops and in-classroom learning are the ways in which students engage with material and content in 2015. However, fast forward to 2025 and educators believe real-time video collaboration and mobile devices will the main ways in which students will be engaging with content and material.

4. Delivery of education: teachers collaborating with industry experts

Respondents believe that teachers and lecturers are the best ways to deliver education in 2015, but they feel that by 2025 industry experts and online learning consortia will be the best ways to deliver education. With the aid of technology, a greater collaboration between schools and corporations, as well as defined career pathways, will be the likely scenarios in 2025.

‘Train the trainer’ delivers collaboration success

Based on these findings, it’s clear that more focus on professional development is needed within the education sector. We can have the greatest technology on the planet, but if we don’t know how to use the technology and apply it within the learning environment then we have a big problem.

We believe it’s important to deliver useful professional development to the education sector from basic video collaboration functionality through to adoption ideas and tools for engaging both students and teachers. We also find that some of our most successful teacher training is delivered with the support of our existing education customers using a ‘train the trainer’ approach. This involves helping to facilitate connections and collaboration among customers who can share and pass on knowledge to newer customers for whom the process is just beginning.

If you decide to go down the ‘train the trainer’ route, here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Demonstrate the technology utilisation to your team in a way that you would want them to teach their students.
  • Introducing a case study, as indicated earlier, can work well. Invite an educator to your session that can explain and share their success in using technology within their learning environment. This will help your team to start thinking about ways they can integrate technology within their own learning environment.
  • Try to incorporate the many technologies that your team is currently using in their ‘educator tool kit’, making sure to use the technology that fits the application.

The future of education in 2025

While the future does hold some unknowns, the next decade will be an exciting time to be involved in education. As a profession, we are ready to go through our own workplace transformation. The way in which we learn, teach and collaborate as educational professionals is set to change significantly; it has to if we are to succeed in supporting the educational requirements of our future workforce.

While no-one can ever predict the future with absolute accuracy, we can plan for likely outcomes. From our perspective, having access to the right technology alone is not enough; it is vital that these technologies are fully integrated into teaching methodologies and learning environments, both physical and virtual, to unleash their true educational value. This will ensure our students are equipped with the skills and knowledge they will need to thrive in the workforce of the future.

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